There are 5 stages to successful marketing. In this guide, we’ll explore each of those stages and illustrate how carrying them out should put you well on your way to getting some great sales commitments from your target customers.
Questions we answer in this guide
- How do you get to know who your customers are?
- How can you establish an approach that will persuade customers to buy from you?
- How can you track your progress and manage a marketing budget?
Step 1: Know your customer
How well you know your customer has a massive influence on your prospect of marketing and sales success. While it’s ok to make some assumptions at the start of this exercise, you’ll need to make sure you validate all of the assumptions with reliable data.
Start out by asking yourself the following questions…
…and be very clear and honest with the answers.
In most cases, you shouldn’t need to write a lot in response to any of them. Use simple language in your answers as well – so no jargon, slang or acronyms!
What type of business are you?
What do you do?
What problem are you solving?
For whom? (i.e. who are your customers?)
Who are your customers?
This is a question that you should not answer superficially. Spend some time honestly considering who your typical customer is.
You may have more than one – for example, if you sell on a retail and wholesale basis, or if you supply big and small organisations or you sell different versions of your products or services to different types of businesses…
And if you sell on- and off-line, your typical customers for each of these channels may also have different characteristics, buyer behaviours and priorities. Need some inspiration? Take a look at the examples below...
How do you (or will you) sell to these target customers?
How do (or will) these target customers find out about you?
What are they likely to be doing or thinking when they find out about you? (E.g. will you have their full attention? For how long? Are they likely to be receptive to the content or format of messaging that you deliver?)
What marketing methods do (or will) you use to do the following:
a. Make your customers aware you exist and have something they are interested in
b. Persuade them to engage with you and get to know what you’re offering better c. Create their desire for what you’re offering d. Get them to place an order
What other marketing methods are there? And why have you ruled these out?
What marketing methods/approaches do your competitors use?
Which of them, if any, do you believe is successful at getting customer attention and sales?
Why do you think that is?
Now forget your sector and competition… what do the best businesses (from whom your target customers also buy other things) do for marketing? What you’re looking at here is how your customers make their buying decisions and who influences them most. Does that decision-making process change with your sector? And is that a good thing, or do you have undesirable friction in the marketing and sales approach you’re using?)
By the time you’ve gone through these questions carefully, you should be able to complete your picture of your representative clients, Gail, Henry and Luca, in our example above.
Our proposal solves Gail’s challenge better than anyone else because….[….] We will reach Gail by these means […..] so she knows about us and can be persuaded to buy from us…. We believe she will buy because [….] We have validated this by [….]
And at the end of this stage, you should have a clear and well-reasoned understanding of each of your customers.
You should also have a clear idea of what type of marketing (and sales) approaches are likely to get them to buy from you, as well as how much competition you’re likely to face.
Step 2: Create a marketing landscape for your efforts
So, knowing what you know about Gail, Henry and Luca, now you need to consider your options and start planning how to apply what you know about them. (Remember that they each represent a different customer group with a level of potentially different value. These next steps will help you to assess and ideally, to prioritise these groups according to the different values you identify.)
Rank your marketing options
It helps to rank your marketing options in order of their likely visibility and persuasive impact on these target customers – always judging success by likelihood of getting a sale. Don’t be wildly optimistic when you conduct this exercise, and test your assumptions with reliable representatives from your target customer group(s) whenever you can.
There are lots of different ways to market what you do, from mailshots and promoted social media posts and campaigns, to pay-per-click (PPC) strategies on Google, sponsoring Google AdWords, sending newsletters, holding events, pushing out merchandise, running webinars, publishing ebooks and blogs, engaging with relevant influencers, conducting PR and establishing a smart SEO approach, including setting up back-links. There’s a huge variety to consider and resource constraints (as well as relevance and predicted impact on your target audience) will inevitably dictate your ability to do them all.
In reality, you’ll probably only need to be actioning a few of them per customer group to be effective. And indeed, it’s always better to go for quality of approach, not quantity, of different methods. Go deep with a few techniques, rather than wide and only scratch the surface with lots of them.
If you’re struggling to choose, or you think you’re going to need a lot of these options in play at the same time just to reach one of your identified customer groups, this could be a significant indication that this is not a good customer audience for you to focus on at this point in time, especially if it suddenly looks as though your customer acquisition costs are spiraling out of balance compared to the revenue that the customer group realistically promises. (We’ll cover how to conduct a good customer acquisition analysis in the steps ahead.)
So, first, let’s look at who you currently consider to be your most significant customers with the biggest sales potential.
When you’ve done this, you may want to record your results. You could use a recording approach like the one we’ve suggested below.
1. Your customer types in order of priority:
The above chart shows your anticipated sales volumes for each of your customer types.
So on the basis of the above, you’re anticipating that businesses like Gail’s will be your largest customer group.
Keep validating this assumption as you complete the steps below. Sometimes, you may find that your next stages of analysis swing the balance in favour of a different group of customers… with whom you might want to start your marketing efforts instead.
2. For EACH of those customers, starting with the most important group, which marketing methods (in priority, if more than one) work best?
So, assuming that this chart reflects the position you’ve considered for Gail, it’s clear that one method of marketing far outstrips others as the most effective way to reach Gail-types, grab their attention and hopefully, get them to engage with you and to convert into being a customer.
There are many methods of marketing to customers… from using social media, browser ads and search engine placements, text alerts, email marketing, bus-stop or train station advertising and flyers, to events, word of mouth recommendations, radio and print advertising.
There’s a huge variety of choice and you may find that different methods will be better suited to the different types of business that you’ve identified for your target customer base.
(Make sure that you’re using legally compliant marketing methods too. The UK’s updated data protection rules in force from 25 May 2018 fundamentally change some long-established marketing practices. You can check out whether any of these changes apply to you in our guide How to check your marketing activities comply with UK data protection rules.
Cost will inevitably have a big bearing on what you decide to use and how much attention and resource you allocate to each method.
So, the next step will help you to decide whether what you’ve identified as the best means of connecting with Gail and persuading her to buy from you is going to be something that you can afford to do right now. This next step is really important in helping you to assess whether businesses like Gail’s are going to be the right priority focus for you at this stage.
- For each marketing method identified for each target customer group, rank them each, in the same way as above,
a. by cost (internal – like travel, hospitality, printing) b. by effort required, and c. by the likelihood of the method resulting in a sale.
Inevitably, some of this will involve educated guesswork on your part, and you may want to take advice from Kim or someone like her, to help you make more accurate evaluations.
The steps below will also help you on your ‘validation’ and prioritisation journey.
Step 3: Calculate the value of marketing per customer
So, knowing what you know about Gail, Henry and Luca, now you need to pull things together and start making those all-important comparisons.
Pull it all together
You don’t want to get lost in the detail here, so creating a table (perhaps on a spreadsheet) can be very helpful at this point.
You could set it up like this:
Notes to the chart:
Total cost of marketing: include all costs here, including any directly related sundries, like printing costs, postage, travel, etc. You want to have as accurate a picture of costs associated with this particular marketing method as possible.
Your customer acquisition cost: this is a measure of all the resources a business must allocate in order to acquire an additional customer. In practice, it's calculated by simply dividing all costs spent on acquiring more customers (marketing, PR and the like) by the number of new customers acquired in the same period.
Estimated effort: This assessment should include your estimation of the time that it will take for your marketing efforts to convert the target customers and achieve the volume of business that you’ve identified. Alternatively, you could create this time frame estimation as an additional column to the table.
Estimated impact on sales: You could choose a different measure here and get more detailed – for example, using ranges to indicate your predictions for sales volumes you hope to achieve. That could look something like this: 1 = sales between 1–50 units; 2 = 51–75 units, etc… and you can attribute of course a unit value or total range value to each section.
Likely customer numbers gained: this is not about individual unit sales but the number of customers you gain. If you have a business that only makes one-off sales, then you won’t need this column as your results will be the same as for the number of sales that you predict you’ll achieve.
However, if you’re aiming for repeat sales from the same customers (as many businesses are), then this column will show you, for example, how 15 customers could be responsible for several 100 unit sales. It’s a good way to evaluate which customers you should reasonably expect to be responsible for the bulk of your sales success. And you’ll then know that these are the most valuable folks on which to focus your efforts.
By the time you’ve completed this step, you should have a great idea of
- Who you want your priority focus group to be
- The best marketing methods to reach them and to ensure you retain/gain them as customers, based on the budget constraints you may be working to
- Whether you might need to revise some of your earlier assumptions and/or existing activities
Your analysis might by now have revealed that Henry-type businesses are a better priority than you expected and that, while they might initially cost you more in terms of marketing spend, the expected sales results will prove that Henry customer-types deliver a far better and faster return on your investment than Gail-types.
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